Coney Island, New York's famous beach and boardwalk destination in southern Brooklyn, brings many things to mind - the old days of Luna Park at night, the photographs of wall-to-wall people crowding the beaches, long summer days riding the Cyclone, and the overindulgence of sand, sun, and Nathan's hot dogs. While Coney Island's rich history may be lost in many physical reminders, the Coney Island of the mind, to reference the title of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 1958 collection of poems, remains strong and personal for many New Yorkers.
During a visit this past week, a sunny day when the beach and the boardwalk were relatively not crowded, some of those historic and personal images of Coney Island veered in and out of my consciousness. Yet, the strong sun had the effect of washing out the remembered mind pictures of Coney Island only to leave its geographical elementals - a peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean with a long deep beach that stretches out for nearly three miles under a relentless sun. The Lenape Indians called this place Narrioch -"land without shadows," because the horizontal east-west geographic configuration keeps Coney Island in the sun all day. On this particular day, the beach looked extra clean, and the ocean looked extra blue.
For a place associated with a hot dog eating contest, Coney Island also turns out to be a perfect place to get some serious exercise. First of all, walking on sand requires much more work than strolling the flat boulevards of the city. A jaunt down to the water's edge at Coney Island quickly reveals a type of sand that is soft and deep. You can feel muscles in your legs that you maybe haven't felt in a long time. In addition, the boardwalk is 2.5 miles long, an ideal length for a walk. With the cooling sea breezes and alternate views of seascapes and amusement park, Coney Island provides an ideal place for exercise in New York's hot summer. The fitness potential of Coney Island may be all the rationalization one needs for indulging in a few favorite food and beverage pleasures along the boardwalk and on nearby streets.
Directions: Coney Island is easily accessible by the D, F, N, and Q subway lines, arriving at the final stop, Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue. For example, I took the N train from Prince and Broadway in Manhattan and arrived in Coney Island in 45 minutes. The subway station is across the street from Nathan's and just a block away from the boardwalk and beach. Use MTA TripPlanner for custom trip planning.
I highly recommend wearing a hat and sunscreen while walking the beach and boardwalk.
Event note: Coney Island's annual Mermaid Parade takes place this year on Saturday, June 23, 2012. Official site.
View Walks on Coney Island's Beach & Boardwalk in a larger map
Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Thursday, May 31, 2012. More pictures in this set on Flickr WOTBA.
Read the companion post, Episodes from a Natural and Social History of Coney Island.